Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Crisis is rocking the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) as the leadership is currently engulfed in a confidence battle over the role of the President, Legborsi Pyagbara, in its processes leading to the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland.
The MOSOP president is also accused of breaching the constitution of the organisation by receiving and spending funds without recourse to the approved channels.
THISDAY gathered that MOSOP Deputy President, Dr. Fortune Chujor, on September 2, wrote to Pyagbara demanding his resignation as MOSOP president for breaching the constitution of the socio-cultural pressure group.
Chujor, in the letter titled: ‘Gross Administrative Misconduct, Fundamental Breaches of MOSOP Constitution and High Handedness,’ insisted that the embattled MOSOP president must explain the huge amount he collected from the Federal Ministry of Environment on behalf of the group for the launching of the Ogoni clean-up exercise.
He accused Pyagbara of single-handedly nominating himself into the governing council of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Programme (HYPREP) recently inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the MOSOP president’s nomination was just for his personal gains and not for the interest of the Ogoni struggle.
The letter read in part: “I hate to say funds for our organisation are misappropriated, but we are fully convinced that until and unless Pyagbara is ready to honour MOSOP constitution which is a proper theoretical basis for our organisation, I will be forced to talk about the noxious cycle of un approved expenditures, deceit and sleight of hand especially on the huge amount of money collected by Pyagbara on behalf of MOSOP from the Federal Ministry of Environment for launching of Ogoni UNEP Report on June 2, 2016 and other undisclosed funds collected by him on behalf of MOSOP.
“I demand that Pyagbara should explain to MOSOP how and where he gets funding for all international and local travels made by him on behalf of MOSOP. Let it be known to Ogoni people that Pyagbara single-handedly nominated himself into the governing council of HYPREP just for his personal gains and not for the interest of the Ogoni struggle.
“I make bold to say so because MOSOP is supposed to nominate any credible and respected Ogoni son or daughter into the HYPREP governing council, while Pyagbara as MOSOP President is supposed to lead MOSOP as the watchdog on the implementation of the Ogoni UNEP report. I therefore call for the immediate resignation of his position as MOSOP president since he is now a member of the HYPREP governing council.
“I maintain in clear terms that the leadership (Executive Committee) of MOSOP must remain the alter ego of the Ogoni struggle and its president must not and should not accept any political appointment from government institutions or agencies.”
Chujor also copied the letter to the Legal Adviser of MOSOP, Maol Dumie, seeking legal interpretation of the allegations levelled against the MOSOP president.
Dumie, in his legal advice contained in his letter to the MOSOP president on September 9, said the allegations against Pyagbara were “weighty” and “laced with facts that affect our age-long struggle.”
On the issue of appointment into the board of HYPREP, Dumie noted: “The sensitive nature of the nomination of the MOSOP president into HYPREP is a very serious matter which the executive committee, central committee and congress are supposed to discuss, ratify and finally approve to avoid conflicts of persons and interest. The reason is because if the person so nominated is a misfit, their actions and inactions can affect the Ogoni struggle and lead MOSOP into unwarranted litigation(s).”
He said if the president’s nomination “was done without due process of passing through executive committee, central committee and congress, then it was done in bad faith and is a direct affront on the aims and objectives of MOSOP because MOSOP is supposed to monitor, advocate and supervise the smooth implementation of the UNEP report and also serve as the uncompromised voice of the Ogoni people.”
He summarised that: “It is my considered opinion that the allegations levelled against the president constitute sufficient grounds for disciplinary action to be taken against him if proven to be true.”
When contacted, Media Adviser to the MOSOP president, Bari-ara Kpalap, however denied knowledge of such disagreement between Pyagbara and his deputy, insisting that the development must have been the handiwork of suspended officials of the organisation.
Kpalap said: “Let me add that Elvis Ikoma and Legborsi Saen, who are erstwhile officials of MOSOP, but are no longer part of the leadership, they are not happy and they will do everything within their power to bring down the leadership of MOSOP. It is not surprising to us because at no time have they been happy with the leadership.
“There is no crisis in MOSOP, if you have gotten a letter like that, we are not aware of the letter, we are not aware of any crisis and I insist, there is no crisis within the leadership of MOSOP.”